Truth be told we have rather rushed through Portugal. We don't have time to visit Porto but instead enjoy driving through the countryside with a mountain range always in view, and sometimes beneath our wheels.
We spot a town on the map, Espinho and decide to stop at the seaside for lunch. It doesn't look very large on the map, but when we arrive in a large, ugly town we realise we not going to get our adventurer badges from Akela (AKA Stuart), the Scout Leader.
Espinho is clearly a resort which is a little odd as the town is dissected from the beach by a railway line, and not of the kind where you can saunter across the track. We have a pleasant enough lunch looking over the wild, wide beach and since we didn't bring our cozzies, thank goodness, we keep our feet dry.
The sat nav, still stinging from our suggestion it has no idea what country it's in never mind what street, takes us on a small, and as it turns out serendipitous diversion and we drive by a huge street market. Of the kind of size that London or Paris would find difficult to stage. We're not sure if it's a kiss and make up gift from sat nav, or if like us he'd welcome a post-lunch snooze. Either way we spend a happy hour, agog at the cheapness and the variety in this giant one day market.
There are many plant sellers with species of triffid proportion and tropical colour. We wonder about this, as apart from municipal planting, we have not seen anything like a garden anywhere. Perhaps it's like France where the marketeers sell vegetables, presumably under government license, with the strict proviso they must never be served in a restaurant.
Soon enough we cross another border and are back in Spain, a little relieved to hear a language we don't understand, compared to the Portuguese we could neither pronounce nor understand.
We are staying in Vigo a large, possibly Europe's largest, fishing port. Our hotel is 5 star but 3 star prices, well located in a more or less private and lavishly planted and be-sculptured boulevard and mid way between the port and old town. Our room is spacious and quirky- there is a bath in the room. The lighting system is of the highest tech. There are controls for 7 million combinations of ambient, dimmed and zoned lighting. We soon discover it is necessary to plan for lights out, as no lights on at all is the most complicated and unachievable of all the options.
We take a morning stroll to the port and see buildings that take their architectural cue from ship design. We spot another monster building that looks even more like a ship. Oh goodness, it is a ship, 14 stories and all glass verandas and docked here. Within moments all we can hear are the golden tones of northern accented English. Readers we ran for it.
Vigo is an elegant town, lowish rise but wide-streeted and with good granite buildings with the familiar by now mix of late 19th and complete 20th century design built by the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie . It has a lovely modern art museum, set in an imaginatively restored building of the kind where you chose with difficulty between looking at the rooms or the art.
Some friends have recommended a particular restaurant and we set off to find it, glad as so often of Googles turn by turn help. It's nothing in particular inside and is apparently empty but then it's only 2.30 am and the locals haven't come out to play yet. The restaurant has a back room where they seat everyone and that slowly filled As our friends said it is not the kind of place you'd find on your own, but it was a brilliant recommendation: we had delicious fish of the kind of freshness so rarely tasted.
A couple of nights in Vigo and then we're off to Santiago de Compostela but first another recommendation to follow, this time from the chef in the mountain park hotel which takes us to a seaside port that specialises in mussel fishing and to a particular restaurant. Sadly it is entirely without merit but a break from driving is always welcome. At Santiago Jean has a yen to see happy pilgrims crawling the last few yards of their 600 mile journey. It's a little disappointing as the Cathedral won't allow rucksacks inside so we don't know which are fakers like us or the real McCoys. The old stone town is super busy mostly with teen school parties but quietens down after dark.
Our final recommendation is an hotel, chosen by dear friends and located opposite where the pilgrims come to have their 'passports' stamped, or used to be, sadly it is now relocated so the dream of lazing and sipping coffee under the stone porticos sharing their achievements is again lost. We take a light supper in a cafe of St Pancras proportions and style but soon slightly regret this as a wine tasting starts up at the other end of the room and a much amplified presenter talks forever with precious little sign of the attendees sniffing and sipping.
We are glad to be staying for just one night as those same dear friends forgot to tell us that the cathedral bells strike on the quarter hour, including the hour and every hour all through the night. No problem, we ask the sat nav to switch to auto drive mode and take us where it will. Possibly and we hope León. Possibly Lyon. Lagos, Lucerne or Lilliput. We snuggle down in the back seat, push the handle into drive with a foot and wait to see where we've been taken.